Tom Perriello: Focus on job creation

My top priority as your representative has been finding ways to encourage job growth and economic recovery in Central and Southern Virginia. We have made smart, strategic investments in infrastructure and workforce that position our area to be leaders in alternative energy production, advanced manufacturing, and other industries of tomorrow. But while we are working hard to create opportunity, we must make sure there is a safety net for our friends and neighbors who are unable to find work.

Last week, after months of posturing, the Senate finally extended unemployment benefits that millions of Americans badly need. These benefits are a crucial lifeline while we continue to make progress on our job creation efforts. The House also passed two bills last week to help revive the manufacturing sector and create good-paying jobs in our region, in addition to bills we have already passed to create construction jobs and help small businesses. I urge the Senate to pass these jobs bills before Congress goes into recess in August.

While legislative battles dominate headlines, much of my work is helping individual constituents behind the scenes, particularly when seniors, veterans, and the unemployed are fighting for the benefits they worked hard to earn. I take my efforts on behalf of local citizens as seriously as my votes, because the federal bureaucracy can be a daunting opponent. That is why I have staff in four offices across the district—Martinsville, Danville, Farmville, and Charlottesville—who help constituents cut through the red tape and attitude they too often encounter.

I have made constituent casework and correspondence a top priority and thus far have completed work on nearly 1,100 individual constituent cases. These cases include services like securing veterans’ benefits, tracking down military service records or medals, securing Social Security benefits, Medicare/Medicaid issues, expediting passport requests, securing moneys owed by the IRS, and assisting with immigration paperwork such as overseas adoption or reuniting of families.

In my first term in Congress, I have put over $3.6 million back into the pockets of individual Virginians by helping veterans, seniors, and other constituents struggling with federal bureaucracies. This is money that the federal government owed to our neighbors in our communities, and we delivered not just much-needed financial support but also validation and, in some cases, apologies.

The money returned to constituents comes from a variety of federal sources. Thus far, I have helped secure $2.7 million in Social Security benefits for seniors, $844,000 of veterans’ benefits to constituents who served in our armed forces, and nearly $46,000 from the Internal Revenue Service that was either incorrectly withheld or from wrongly assessed penalties that got waived.

These victories are not just about the dollars returned to families, but also about fairness and recognition for those who have spent too many hours being denied what they earned. Behind every number is a story of a constituent who was on the verge of losing their home before receiving long-overdue back pay, or who was owed four months of Social Security payments, or who had been erroneously kicked off the Medicaid rolls due to a calculation error.

If you’re getting the run-around from Medicare, Social Security, the VA or any federal agency, please call or stop by my office. There’s a great team ready to serve you.

In addition to casework, we have responded to over 27,000 constituent letters and pieces of correspondence this year, bringing the total for the last 18 months to 63,304. Finally, more than 600 requests for tours of the White House, Capitol, and other Washington, D.C., attractions have been fulfilled, and nearly 100 requests for U.S. flags flown over the Capitol have processed.

Tom Perriello represents the Fifth District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives.

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